No ganja babies - Tufton vows to protect vulnerable from ill effects of marijuana
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has declared that he remains strongly dedicated to protecting vulnerable Jamaicans, particularly children, from the harmful effects of smoking marijuana, despite his plans to bat for recognition of the medicinal value of the weed when he participates in the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, later this month.
Tufton will be leading a team to the assembly - a decision-making body of the World Health Organization - on May 22, where Jamaica is expected to present a position to have cannabis removed from 'Schedule One', which states that marijuana has no medicinal benefits but is purely a narcotic substance.
"We are pushing that agenda to have cannabis removed from that schedule to ensure that its medicinal properties are recognised," Tufton told journalists yesterday at a post-Sectoral Debate press conference at Jamaica House.
However, the minister warned against what he described as the "glamour" and "hype" around the use of marijuana.
"I don't hear those who are advocating [for marijuana use] being equally enthusiastic about their message involving the limitations and those who should avoid it. Maybe they should put that in their narrative, and their message will be a little more accepted by the medical fraternity," Tufton declared.
In March, Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) director Delano Seiveright criticised the health ministry and some of its officials for being an obstacle in the authority's efforts to advance ganja-decriminalisation efforts in Jamaica.
DANGEROUS TO PLAY WITH
Under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 (also referred to as the Ganja Reform Law), the personal use of up to two ounces of marijuana - including for medicinal and religious purposes - is decriminalised.
"I am the father of three children. One is 12 years old. I would not like my 12-year-old, because of curiosity or otherwise, to start experimenting with anything that is going to intoxicate him and negatively affect his state of mind and the development of his mind," Tufton said.
"Whether it is alcohol or marijuana consumption through smoking of edibles, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that at a certain point of your development, it is a dangerous thing to play around with."
On Tuesday, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda announced that approval had been given for the granting of two ganja licences. Speaking during his Sectoral Debate presentation in Parliament, Samuda said that the CLA granted approval for the Tier 1 Cultivator and Tier 1 Processor licences last week.
Tier 1 Cultivator licences are for farms of up to one acre, and Tier 1 Processor licences are for the processing of ganja for medical, scientific, and therapeutic purposes, including the manufacturing of ganja-based products. Both licences represent the smallest scale of operation within the legal licensing framework.